Sunday, March 26, 2006

A Short Allegory

In my journey eastside I have encountered many things. As I emerged, face drinking the sun, just starting on my journey, I felt liberation and anticipation for what was to come. A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, as we are wont to say. It was good to stand tall after crouching for so long in my dark study. The first days were hard though, with me so unprepared and all. But walls crumble in time, even in ten years of horse-labour. After some time in dark tunnels (not so dark, light, after all, streams in from both sides), I emerged into a vast quilt of lands. I tell you, the landlords weren't too happy to see me walking without a care in the world, as if I would crush their flowers. Crossing the chess-board patchwork of parcel-estates is hardly fun, though, given that the sheer heads of the master-pieces are staring down stonily at you. I was glad to get out from there without starving as I was wont.

Casting down my sword and spear, for my need had passed, I went on to what I considered safer lands. The
Mille fontaines were beauteous, as were the murals in the cavernous halls that I rested in. You must understand that vast tracts of the land lay fallow and uninhabited, the canvas of human life, being, as it were, heavily skewed towards centralization. But there was a man with donkey's ears, and he followed me silently for as long as I remained in those lands. I was disturbed at his quiet, fervent intensity, but I never went near him.

Further on was the place known as Krieglander, which I understood to have once been the fallen legacy of a god-empire of old, but, ironically, was neither divine or much of an empire. The Reicheroberer changed all that, of course. The land here was tilled and orderly, and folk greeted me with more vigour that I would have expected. Distant lands that carried sickness became distant lands that carried riches, and smoke, black smoke, appeared on the horizon. And, somehow, night never came for a long time.

I trudged through ditches and tar, all the way. And before long I came into a land of night, a night that wasn't, a night that was grim beyond despair and reeked of death. But suddenly, that too, disappeared in light, blinding light that I knew was a salve from heaven and hell.

East still lay a long way away, though. The road leads ever on, and I did not feel liberated as I laboured forth. But at length a vast wilderness lay before me, dotted by trees and a discarded parka here and there, crisscrossed by countless tracks and marked with craters. There was a bistro there, incongrously lighted in the long night. I was hungry, having braved much without so much as a bite, and I was cold, and tired, having no place to sleep. So I went in.

Inside was warm, but not as warm as I would have liked. An electric fire crackled merrily behind the bar. Two lights swung above the room, one above the bistro area, one in the bar area. I wondered where they got the electricity from. There were people inside when I came in, tall, gaunt fellows who sat around nursing clear spirits. The lone waiter and the restaurant manager, in contrast, looked mighty well-fed. Around the bare room were pasted posters, large coarse ones with messages like "GOOD GOING" and "ALL THE SAME TO US" imprinted in large block letters on them, and the bistro was creaking like a house in storm.

The waiter didn't budge. I knew he knew I had come. He lounged at the corner studying me. At length I could hardly stand my hunger and thirst and approached the waiter on weak legs. "Excuse me," I began. The waiter showed no sign of having heard. I went on anyway. "Some water, please, and a sandwich."

At length he turned toward me. "Scrawny looking thing, aren't ya?" Mystified and affronted, I said nothing. "I'll get'cha what ya want. Just be sure ya don't mess up the place, like, by pissin' all ovah the floor like. I know you. Ya do that all the bloomin' time."

I turned tail and headed towards the manager. Surely an explanation is not required. But the manager is already waiting for me, hefting an axe. "I most heartily express my disgust at your employee over there," I said, pointing to the retreating waiter. But the manager only smiles, walrus moustache bouncing away. "And why do you think he would rectify his behaviour, peon?"

I sputtered.

Menacingly, the manager grins at me. "You're all the same to us, see? Who cares about you, when we have so many others to use? Why should we extend services to you, you with your decadence?"

This is obvious to me. "Because you will have no customers. They will leave you for better alternatives. We deserve better than this!"

"Is it indeed? Look around you." The manager smiles. "Remember how you came. Look around you! Look at the wilderness of the world, lost among the uncaring universe. Do you honestly think, in all seriousness, that there are...alternatives?"


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